If you know me, maybe you’ve noticed. I’m not often the center of a conversation. I don’t host a lot of parties. I like to spend my weekends at home. I have scored up to 93% introverted on personality tests.
I tend to think these traits have helped me survive as a foreigner in Japan. Don’t have the vocabulary to contribute to an office discussion? No problem, I probably wouldn’t speak up if I did. No coworkers inviting me to hang out on the weekend (as if teachers have free time)? No problem, I enjoy having a day to recharge without obligations. I’ve found, living alone, that I actually giggle with joy at the smallest things, precisely because there’s no one to hear me do it.
And when I do want some human interaction, there are other ALTs who are always up for donuts or karaoke, and the people at church always have a smile and a lunch invitation for me on Sundays. It’s not like I’m alone. Most days the idea that I could be lonely doesn’t even cross my mind.
My brother and sister came to visit me last month. We spent almost two weeks living together in my one-room apartment, talking, making dinner together, exploring the island after school, and watching movies. I’ll be honest, it was a little bit stressful having two extra people in my space for that long. But after a year apart, it was also a breath of fresh air to have family around again. I got used to having the entire floor covered in futons. Used to having someone there to make comments to.
Then their time here was up, and I dropped them off at the airport and found myself with an entire day to fill. I rode the bus silently. I went to my favorite shops silently. I took the ferry silently. And when I got back to my island I went out and bought a new stuffed animal to fill the empty space (and talked to it all the way home, I admit).
I’m back to normal now, enjoying my solitary lifestyle and looking forward to my parents’ visit in August. But I’m a little afraid of it, too. For me, loneliness is only a struggle in the wake of companionship. It happened that way in the States too–spend the evening with a friend, feel alone on the drive home. Get coffee with Dad while he’s in town, go home feeling like an orphan. So while I’m excited to see them again . . . I already know it’ll be hard when they leave.
But I suppose life is like that. Everything is temporary, and if you’re not holding on to the only one who isn’t, you might get swept away. (I didn’t mean to make a spiritual application, but there you go. He’s the foundation and ends up being in everything.)
In conclusion, if you’ve come to visit me, thank you and I love you but you also made me lonely. But it’s also still an open invitation–please, come make me lonely. I’ve decided it’s worth it.